In the end, it was not meant to be for Sky Blue FC (9-11-2, 29 points) this season as the New Jersey club saw itself eliminated for National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) playoff contention after falling 2-1 to the Washington Spirit (5-13-4, 19 points) on Sunday evening. Maya Hayes scored the lone goal for SBFC in the 43rd minute of action, but Washington rallied for a pair of late tallies in the second half to claim the 2-1 result.
The last time these two teams faced off in August, Sky Blue FC took a 1-0 lead into halftime, and history repeated itself. The first goal in this contest came in the 43rd minute off the foot of Hayes, and the New Jersey side took the 1-0 advantage into the locker room.
The scoring sequence started with Spirit goalkeeper DiDi Haracic booting a goal kick to the center of the field, and Hayes won the ariel battle by sending a header in the direction of Sam Kerr. The Australia international then touched it back to Hayes, who raced towards the goal before Haracic came out to break up the play. The collision sent the ball out right to Kerr, who then stretched out to put a rebound on target, but her attempt was deflected by a defender. Kerr then knocked the loose ball back to Hayes, and she fired a shot into the back of the net with her second touch.
Sky Blue FC was once again unable to maintain the lead against the Spirit as Washington leveled the contest in the 75th minute. On a corner kick that was sent into the box by Shelina Zadorsky, Whitney Church headed home her first goal of the season for the equalizer.
Ten minutes later, rookie Mallory Pugh scored the go-ahead goal that would prove to be the game-winner. Lindsey Agnew laid a ball off for Pugh, who then touched the ball around a defender before striking a low shot under a diving Kailen Sheridan and into the back of the net.
Pugh did not start the match and was listed as probable with a right hip flexor strain. She entered in the 62nd minute and scored with her only shot of the game.
The New Jersey club fought to keep its playoff hopes alive and nearly escaped with a point in the second minute of stoppage time. On that series, Kelley O’Hara was played into a 1v1 situation with Haracic, cutting around the netminder before shooting a ball on frame, but the ball was blocked by a defender. O’Hara then gathered the rebound and laid it back Daphne Corboz, who fired a shot that Haracic pushed away from the goal. O'Hara one-time volleyed the deflection, but Haracic was there to make yet another save before the ball was finally cleared away from danger.
Unfortunately for Sky Blue FC, it would be its final chance at recording an equalizer, and the 2-1 tally remained when the final whistle sounded.
Since Kerr was kept off the score sheet for the second consecutive game, she will attempt to score her 17th goal of the season a set a new NWSL record in her final two appearances of the year in a Sky Blue FC uniform.
Sky Blue FC will play its final home match of the 2017 season on Sunday, September 24 when the club hosts the North Carolina Courage for a 6:00 p.m. kickoff at Yurcak Field in Piscataway.